Tag Archives: #trafigura

Daniel Pearl awards open for entries

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is calling on reporters from across the globe to enter its Daniel Pearl award scheme.

The competition is open to any journalist of any nationality working in any medium, as long as the story they submit involves reporting in at least two different countries on a topic of global significance.

The ICIJ awards were renamed in 2008 in memory of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was killed by Pakistan militants in 2002.

Two first prizes of US$5,000 go to a US-based and non-US reporter/news team. Five additional finalists will each receive US$1,000.

Last year’s winners included a group of reporters from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, the Guardian and the BBC, who exposed oil trader Trafigura for dumping toxic waste in Côte d’Ivoire. There were  86 entries including stories covering more than 60 countries.

More information and entry forms here.

Super-injunctions and libel reform at the Frontline Club (video)

Last night’s debate at the Frontline Club saw Carter-Ruck senior partner Nigel Tait (wearing a ‘Hated by the Guardian’ badge) go head to head with  science writer Simon Singh and the Guardian’s David Leigh.

Also joining them on the panel was David Hooper, a media law specialist and partner at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain and chair Clive Coleman, presenter of Radio 4’s Law in Action (and a former barrister).

Catch up with the debate here:

Highlights included Tait’s version of the Trafigura super-injunction versus Leigh’s; discussion around ‘libel tribunals’ to resolve cases more quickly and more cheaply; and a chance audience encounter between a film-maker who was sued and the very lawyer that sued her.

I spoke to Simon Singh afterwards about the ongoing libel case he’s fighting over a Guardian article published in 2008. Singh is celebrating a victory in the Court of Appeal to defend his article as fair comment, but the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has not yet dropped its case.

“The case could carry on for another two years; they could go to Supreme Court,” he said. “I’m more than happy to discuss it in a trial, the statements I made in the article.”

“I’m much happier with the position it stands now, as opposed to two weeks ago.”

But he added, he’s annoyed and angry that it’s taken a couple of years and hundreds of thousands of pounds to decide the meaning of a couple of words.

Would he encourage others to stand up as he has? “I think that everyone has to make their own judgement…. You have got to be a little bit unhinged and wealthy to fight these. Most people aren’t that unhinged and aren’t necessarily that wealthy to fight them.”

“Except,” he adds, hesitantly, “the ruling two weeks ago was quite clear, the judges said: ‘we do not want to see scientists being hauled through the libel courts’.”

“My interpretation of their ruling is that the default defence will be one of comment, which immediately gives scientists and researchers a bit more confidence if they go to trial.”

Independent publishes Trafigura story correction

The Independent published a correction yesterday concerning its front page story from September 2009 ‘Toxic shame’, which contained claims of individuals who alleged they had been injured as a result of illegal dumping of waste in the Cote d’Ivoire by a Trafigura ship:

The article stated that claimants had been maimed and wrongly suggested that, due to the settlement, claims of more serious injuries including miscarriages would not be tested in the High Court case. In fact such claims had already been withdrawn earlier last year. A joint statement issued by both parties in that case said that independent experts have been “unable to identify a link between exposure to the chemicals… and deaths, miscarriages, still births, birth defects … or other serious and chronic injuries”. The story featured the photograph of a woman with a severely scarred face, a condition which Trafigura says, and we accept, cannot therefore have been caused by the waste. We are happy to set the record straight.

Full correction at this link…

Trafigura and its lawyers Carter-Ruck were at the centre of last year’s super injunction debate after Carter-Ruck abandoned an attempt to prevent the Guardian from reporting a parliamentary question about the company.

In December the oil trader ended its legal dispute with BBC Newsnight. The programme agreed to: apologise for allegations made about waste dumping in Côte d’Ivoire on air and pay £25,000 to a charity of Trafigura’s choice, as well as legal costs.

Comment: A black day for British journalism

Padraig Reidy is news editor of the Index on Censorship. The Index on Censorship and English PEN also issued a statement at this link. The BBC’s statement in open court can be read at this link.

Yesterday was a black day for British journalism, when the BBC, perhaps through fear of expense, or perhaps simply because of the uncertainty and lack of backbone that has plagued the organisation for years now, conceded in a libel case brought by oil traders Trafigura.

This was a matter of the utmost public interest. The BBC should have held its ground and in a court of law a clear vindication of Trafigura or otherwise should have been made. It’s a terrifying prospect that even the nation’s biggest broadcaster can’t face up to big business in our libel courts such are the costs involved.

newsnight2Trafigura and its solicitors Carter-Ruck have now become synonymous with attempts to stifle free expression in the UK. First it gagged newspapers who attempted to report on waste dumping in Côte d’Ivoire with an injunction. Then it attempted to gag Parliament itself over the reporting of a question on the matter by Labour MP Paul Farrelly. Now, acting with confidence of its advantage as a claimant in England’s rotten libel courts, it has forced the national broadcaster to apologise, rather than face a potential £3m court case.

Libel laws are, most would agree, necessary. People should have a right to defend themselves from outrageous and injurious accusations. But this is quite different from corporations protecting themselves from investigation of their practices and the consequences of their practices.

Through the libel law and the ad hoc privacy law emerging from Mr Justice Eady’s courts, foreign companies, like Trafigura and Kaupthing, the Icelandic bank, can scare off British reporters, and in turn deprive British people of information.

This state of affairs cannot continue, which is why Index on Censorship, English PEN and Sense About Science, has formed the Libel Reform Campaign, offering 10 simple recommendations to make libel laws fairer for all – claimants and defendants. A petition launched last week at libelreform.org has already attracted thousands of signatures, and there have been some favourable noises from Westminster. But favourable noises only go so far: now is the time for all our politicians to take action and end the UK’s status as a global free speech pariah.

BBC Newsnight to broadcast Trafigura apology on tonight’s programme

Carter-Ruck has issued its response (via PR firm Bell-Pottinger) to today’s high court hearing resolution that ended the legal dispute between oil trader Trafigura and BBC Newsnight.

The BBC has agreed to apologise for allegations made about waste dumping in Côte d’Ivoire on air tonight; pay £25,000 to a charity of Trafigura’s choice, as well as legal costs.

[Full story at this link]

In a Newsnight programme in May 2009, the BBC alleged that waste dumped in Côte d’Ivoire in 2006 had caused deaths, miscarriages and serious long term health effects.

“Faced with such grave, yet wholly false, allegations, Trafigura was left with no alternative but to commence libel proceedings,” the British-based oil trading firm claimed today, through its solicitors.

Although the feature published in May 2009 disappeared from the BBC’s site last week
, the text and video has been made available via the whistleblowing site Wikileaks.

In a statement today, Eric de Turckheim, founder and director of Trafigura, said:

“Trafigura has always maintained that the slops cannot have caused the deaths and serious injuries alleged by the BBC. We informed Newsnight of the detailed evidence before the programme was aired – yet they chose to proceed with their highly-damaging and false assertions. We are pleased the BBC has now acknowledged that it was wrong.

“Trafigura accepts that the Probo Koala incident is a matter of public interest. However, there is no public interest in the BBC reporting damaging untruths. Such is the international reach and high-regard of the BBC, we were left with little choice but to bring these proceedings – the only libel claim we have brought anywhere in the world against any media outlet.

“With the benefit of the facts, Mr Justice MacDuff advised the media earlier this year to take note of the evidence and approach their reporting of these matters more responsibly. We hope that, in future, they do.”

The BBC statement can be read at this link. It says: “the BBC has played a leading role in bringing to the public’s attention the actions of Trafigura in the illegal dumping of 500 tons of hazardous waste in Abidjan in 2006. The dumping caused a public health emergency with tens of thousands of people seeking treatment.”

The corporation, however, has backed down by retracting its earlier claims. It now says that “the evidence does not establish that Trafigura’s waste caused deaths, miscarriages or serious or long term injuries”.

Trafigura agreed to pay victims of the waste dumping around £30 million in compensation in September 2009, having previously paid compensation of over £100 million to the Ivory Coast government. However, the company denies liability.

In October, Trafigura’s injunction on the ‘Minton Report’ – which looked into the effects of waste dumping – was lifted, following a five week legal battle with the Guardian.

Guardian.co.uk: Trafigura’s BBC libel case could be resolved today

A resolution is expected in the high court today, for the libel action brought against BBC Newsnight by oil traders Trafigura, the Guardian reports. A hearing is scheduled before Mr Justice Eady.

Full story at this link…

Background: Last week, one of the BBC features on Trafigura from May 2009, was reported to have disappeared online. Wikileaks.org have made the video and text available.

When Journalism.co.uk contacted Trafigura’s lawyers Carter-Ruck for comment yesterday, we were told a statement might be released today [Thursday]. BBC Newsnight, via its press office, did not wish to comment.

Where has the BBC’s Trafigura feature gone?

In May 2009, Guardian head of investigations, David Leigh, reported that Trafigura was suing the BBC’s Newsnight programme for libel.

Seven months later on 10 December, Richard Wilson, of the Don’t Get Fooled Again blog, claimed that the BBC’s Trafigura feature from May 2009 had disappeared from the BBC’s site. The text, however, was still available via the Google cache. A video of the missing film soon appeared on YouTube.

Journalism.co.uk followed up this latest development – the disappearance of the feature on alleged dumping of toxic waste in Cote d’Ivoire – with BBC Newsnight, via its press office on Monday.

In response, after checking with the lawyers, a spokesperson said: “We haven’t got anything to say on this. As discussed earlier we are often not able to comment if there’s a live legal action.”

Trafigura’s law firm Carter-Ruck has not yet issued a statement, Journalism.co.uk was told when we contacted them for comment.

Yesterday, the New Statesman reported that the story had disappeared; Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, among others, then shared the NS article link on Twitter.

The full text of the feature and copy of the video has now appeared on Wikileaks.

Richard Wilson: ‘No one knows how many secret super-injunctions are currently in force’

Richard Wilson, author of Don’t Get Fooled and central blogger in the Trafigura/Guardian/Carter-Ruck episode, reports back from a meeting of the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights which focused on ‘super-injunctions’.

Wilson, along with journalists, editors, MPs, Lords and lawyers (including two senior partners from Carter-Ruck) took part:

“[N]o one knows how many secret super-injunctions are currently in force. While the UK state seems bent on meticulously recording every detail of its citizens phone, email and web-browsing habits, it is positively lackadaisical about tracking its own media gagging orders. While each individual super-injunction is (we have to hope) being kept on file somewhere by the judiciary, no-one, anywhere, is collating information about the overall picture.”

Full story at this link…

Guardian.co.uk: Government to convene senior politicians summit to ‘reinforce’ freedom of the press

The Guardian reports on yesterday’s parliamentary debate on the effect of libel law on reporting Parliament:

[Justice minister Bridget Prentice] announced that the government would convene a summit of senior politicians to discuss ways to ‘reinforce’ the freedom of the press in reporting parliament and the historic principle of parliamentary privilege.”


“In the debate today MPs from all parties criticised the issuing ‘super-injunctions’ against the press and their concerns were echoed by Prentice: ‘We are very concerned that they are being used more commonly and particularly in the area of libel and privacy, and the secretary of state for justice [Jack Straw] has already asked senior officials in the department to discuss that matter with lawyers from the newspapers and we are involving the judiciary in a consultation too.'”

Trafigura dumped as art prize sponsor following ‘recent events’

As noted by Richard Wilson, author of Don’t Get Fooled Again, and one of the bloggers to first publish MP Paul Farrelly’s secret injunction question on his blog, Trafigura – the third largest independent oil trader in the world – has been dropped as a sponsor of what was formerly the Trafigura Art Prize.

Cynthia Corbett’s art prize will no longer be sponsored by Trafigura, and will instead be renamed the Young Masters Art Prize, a release from the gallery stated.

“Since the prize was conceived two years ago we approached various art foundations and corporate organizations to sponsor an art prize. We feel that the recent events involving Trafigura are detracting from the main purpose of the prize, which is to celebrate emerging and newly established artists,” said Corbett.

Sixteen international artists are currently exhibiting work at the Young Masters exhibition, which opened at The Old Truman Brewery last week (the day before Trafigura dropped its injunction against the Guardian) with over 1200 visitors. The prize will seek funding for the prize money from alternative sponsors in future years; this year the prize will be non-monetary, the release stated.

Richard Wilson is currently hosting the ‘Alternative Trafigura Art Prize’.

For the latest on the Guardian-Trafigura-Carter-Ruck injunction triangle, see Journalism.co.uk stories at this link.